(From Harry Boyte, email@example.com)
White House Civic Summit on Higher Education
October 16 at Tufts University, the White House, working with the Department of Education, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and Tuft’s Tisch College of Citizenship, organized a gathering on higher education’s civic purposes. It was called “The White House Civic Learning and National Service Summit.” Alan Solomont, former ambassador to Spain and now dean of Tisch College, gave an impassioned opening address on how democracy is endangered. Peter Levine, Associate Dean of Research and director of the CIRCLE research center, played a central role in organizing the meeting.
The meeting brought together about 50 White House aides, agency officials and staff, higher education leaders and community activists and leaders. Jonathan Greenblatt, director of citizen participation in the White House, and Robert Rodriguez, Obama education policy adviser, gave opening remarks.
The title of the gathering may have revealed a shrinking of the sense of possibility in the administration. The name of the event, “Civic Learning and National Service,” is smaller than the earlier meeting on which it built, “For Democracy’s Future,” at the White House in 2012.
But the discussions were animated and productive, and pointed to a crucial need for deeper dialogue with the public on the public aims and contributions of higher education.
Jamienne Studley, Deputy Under Secretary for Higher Education, made a strong pitch for the continuing bully pulpit role of administration officials in promoting change. Studley chaired a panel which including Carol Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and Richard Freedland, Commission of Higher Education in Massachusetts. Both discussed what has happened since the earlier White House meeting, January 12, 2012, when AAC&U unveiled the report, A Crucible Moment, commissioned by the Department of Education, calling for civic learning to become “pervasive” in colleges and universities. Perhaps the most significant development in the intervening time was the strategic plan developed among public universities in Massachusetts, which calls for pervasive civic learning and will evaluate presidents’ performance based on progress toward that goal.
“For Democracy’s Future” also launched the American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP), a one year alliance to commemorate the 150th anniversary of land grant colleges. ACP developed strategies to revitalize the democracy story, purposes, and practices of higher education. In the session chaired by Andrew Seligsohn, new president of Campus Compact, I described these democracy initiatives. These include the initiative on civic science (described in the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harry-boyte/civic-science-renewing-th_b_5950972.html ), Citizen Alum, an effort to broaden alumni’s roles to “doers not only donors” coordinated by Julie Ellison of the University of Michigan, and the forthcoming book collection from Vanderbilt University Press, Democracy’s Education: Public Work, Citizenship, and the Future of Colleges and Universities http://www.amazon.com/Democracys-Education-Citizenship-Colleges-Universities/dp/0826520367
They also included a conversation in communities across the country on the purposes of higher education, “Shaping Our Future,” http://www.nifi.org/issue_books/detail.aspx?catID=6&itemID=21640 . “Shaping Our Future” was launched at the National Press Club on September 4, 2012, with Martha Kanter, Under Secretary for Post Secondary Education, David Mathews of the Kettering Foundation, Muriel Howard, president of AASCU, Nancy Canter, then Chancellor of Syracuse University, Bill Muse, president of the National Issues Forums and other leaders.
My take-away from the October 16th meeting was that the civic engagement movement in higher education has a more urgent sense of the importance of higher education’s contributions to revitalizing and deepening the democratic story, purposes, and practices of colleges and universities than two years ago. There is also great need, and new opportunities, to let people know about higher education’s public and democratic roles.
The group strongly supported the proposal of Barbara Vacarr, past president of Goddard College, that presidents need to articulate a bold vision of their colleges’ democracy role. Participants also agreed s with the remarks of Carolyne Abdullah of Everyday Democracy that faculty need to learn skills of collaborative partnership with communities, becoming democratic role models for students. But today the democracy identity of colleges is largely counter-cultural. While many pundits express alarm about higher education and its purposes, few mention any relation to democracy. For all the service-learning projects, community research and other important engagement efforts over the last two decades connecting higher education to communities and the society, the democracy history and purposes of higher education are now largely forgotten. Many colleges and universities advertise themselves as tickets to individual success.
In contrast, the Commission on Higher Education created by President Truman declared in its 1947 report, Higher Education for American Democracy, that “the first and most essential charge upon higher education is that at all levels and in all its fields of specialization, it shall be the carrier of democratic values, ideals, and process.” This reflected a broad national discussion growing out of land grant colleges, the City College of New York, community colleges and elsewhere that highlighted higher education’s multiple public roles.
In “Shaping Our Future” discussion and the listening process for a follow-up national deliberation, “The Changing World of Work: What’s Higher Education’s Role?”, on how colleges can be resources for communities in dealing with radical changes in work and workplaces, we have talked with thousands of citizens about their concerns.
We found wide sentiment that the current policy debate about higher education is too narrow and short term, focused on immediate issues like student debt, distance learning, and vocational education. These are important, but as people deliberate about options they express the conviction that today’s policy discussion neglects ways in which higher education needs to prepare students for a rapidly changing world and to make contributions to that world. We also discovered that while public knowledge of the once vibrant story of public contributions by higher education has largely disappeared, there is hunger for this narrative if people have the chance to learn it. The mood shifts from “me” to “we.”
Participants in the White House civic summit on October 16 believed that it is imperative for higher education to reaffirm its democracy purposes and educate about the democracy-building story of higher education. Our discussions with citizens outside higher education have shown that people will respond, but it takes a process of deliberation and discussion to acquaint the general public with this history and current examples.
Thus, there is great importance in the “Changing World of Work” deliberation. “The Changing World of Work” will be launched at the National Press Club January 21, 2015, by the Kettering Foundation, Augsburg College, host of the ACP, and the National Issues Forums.
Democracy’s advance can no longer be taken for granted, in the United States or around the world. Higher education needs to step up to the plate, communicating a much deeper and richer understanding of democracy in which citizens are the central agents, not simply elections where we select leaders to “do democracy” for us.
The following is excerpted from the article titled Whom Can You Trust? by Frank Fear. You can also read the entire article that was published in the LA Progressive.
It’s anybody’s guess when the public’s trust began eroding. There were instances, here and there, starting years ago. For many in my generation it began with the Nixon Years, especially “Watergate.” Today there’s a clear pattern of trust being debased…
Citizens need a way to consider public issues responsibly, collectively, and systematically. A time-tested strategy is available through The National Issues Forum Institute. It’s a structured and disciplined approach that begins with reliable background information about an issue—information that’s presented in nonpartisan form. Action options are then offered based on the background analysis. Citizens can use this information to engage in dialogue, then deliberation, to select an actionable solution that makes sense to them. The protocol can be used at multiple levels (organization, community, and beyond) and for a variety of purposes (e.g., for public policy and institutional goal-setting).
Citizens can’t do it all by themselves, though. The kind of progress we need requires changing how social institutions engage citizens, particularly in terms of how public sector and nonprofit professionals go about their work…
Gregg Kaufman, a member of the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI), has shared news about recognition of civic engagement work at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia. The following is excerpted from a media release describing the work and the award. Click here to read the full announcement.
Georgia College received the 2014 Higher Education Civic Engagement Award, one of only five universities in the country acknowledged this year. The award is presented by The Washington Center and the New York Life Foundation.
The award recognizes institutions for their dedication to civic engagement through mutually transformational partnerships that address public concern at any level—from local to global.
Georgia College was selected from more than a hundred nominations for the Live Healthy Baldwin Program coordinated through the Georgia College Center for Health and Social Issues….
“The Live Healthy Baldwin program has provided a unique and important bridge between the university and community, while offering students, faculty and staff opportunities to work with the community in substantive ways” said Gregg Kaufman, who coordinated the award application. “Working with community partners to improve citizens’ health and fitness is a mutually beneficial endeavor.”
(The following news is from Gregg Kaufman, Gregg.firstname.lastname@example.org at Georgia College.)
A standing room only crowd of nearly 150 students, faculty, staff, and community citizens attended a teach-in that addressed the events in Ferguson, MO and the related issues of race, class, and inequity in American society. Panelists representing a variety of academic disciplines and campus safety spoke, after which audience members asked questions.
The presentations included “The Talk” that many young African American males hear about self-protection, black male stereotypes, sociological principles such as “othering,” human geography scales, and finally a critical thinking process based on the principle of charitable interpretation.
Approximately half the audience represented local citizens and several people commented that they hoped more teach-ins would provide opportunities for learning and dialogue. Another common idea involved hosting a conversation among campus and community citizens with the police departments that share responsibility for public safety.
A student-led educational event and candlelight vigil for Michael Brown and the Ferguson community was held the next evening on the front campus.
(The following news is from Harry Boyte, email@example.com .)
Higher Education Engagement News is a periodic newsletter edited by Harry C. Boyte, Director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College, which responds to requests for updates and information about initiatives associated with the American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP). ACP was a coalition to strengthen the public purposes of higher education, organized for the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act establishing land grant colleges in 2012, on invitation by the White House Office of Public Engagement.
This issue reprints a Huffington Post blog, “Higher Education and the Politics of Free Spaces,” on the theme of freedom and higher education in the forthcoming collection Democracy’s Education (Vanderbilt University Press). Drawing on political philosopher Albert Dzur’s essay, “The Democratic Roots of Academic Professionalism,” and an earlier book I coauthored with Sara Evans, Free Spaces, it explores the importance of freedom understood in public ways for the higher education engagement movement, its settings in free spaces, and the roles of higher education in strengthening or undermining free spaces. Democracy’s Education will be available in early December. The price for the paperback is $24.95. Order the book on Amazon.
Higher Education and the Politics of Free Spaces
Harry Boyte, Huffington Post, 9/3/14 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harry-boyte/higher-education-and-the-_3_b_5747818.html
On both left and right today, there is renewed attention to what might be called “middle spaces,” places between the individual and the impersonal structures of modern life. I’ve been thinking about such spaces and their little remarked connection to the movement for democratizing higher education.
The concept, as Sara Evans and I developed it in our book, Free Spaces: The Sources of Democratic Change in America, has overlap with progressive and conservative ideas. It also differs from both.
The concept conceives of middle spaces as full of dynamism and democratic energies, potentially sites of citizen power and a culture of freedom, as well as sites of continuity. Free spaces are seedbeds of movements for participatory democracy. The politics of free spaces holds implications for concepts of the good society, for mainstream politics, and for policy change. Here, I focus on its implications for how we organize for educational reform.
In a recent blog post, “The Spirit of Revolution,” Roger Berkowitz, Director of the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard Colleges, draws on the late political theorist Arendt’s concept of “spaces of freedom” to make a progressive argument about the civic movements around the world in recent years. Arendt believed that the “revolutionary spirit” which infused movements like the American, French, and Russian revolutions (she also saw such freedom spirit in the civil rights movement, as did I and all who participated), involved not simply an effort to destroy oppressive structures. It also involved “the experience of being free…an exhilarating awareness of the human capacity of beginning.” She called this “the revolutionary treasure.” She argued that it involved “the desire to found stable structures,” as well as to tear down old ones. These she conceived as “new yet lasting governmental institutions,” as Berkowitz put it.
The problem, for Arendt, was that the republics generated by such revolutions “left no space for the very freedom that constituted part of the revolutionary treasure.” In the United States, Arendt believed the mistake was that US revolutionaries had “failed to incorporate the township and the town-hall meeting into the Constitution,” a tradition of localized spaces of freedom. Berkowitz draws large implications from the Arendtian concept. From the Obama campaign of 2008 or the Arab Spring to the Scottish Independence movement which I described in my last blog, the freedom spirit is visible. And as he suggests, the question is how it can be sustained. “Around the globe revolutionaries are struggling with Arendt’s question of how to find a spirit of freedom within a political order.”
Seemingly a world apart, an aggressive new intellectual movement among conservatives, sometimes called “reformicons,” is reasserting the importance of middle spaces, for different reasons. It has had remarkable success in beginning to shift the tone and policy agenda of Republicans. Reformicons, as Sam Tannenhaus described such intellectuals in a New York Times magazine article last summer, call for “jettisoning… orgiastic tax-cutting, the slashing of government programs, the championing of Wall Street — and using an altogether different vocabulary, backed by specific proposals, that will reconnect the party to middle-class and low-income voters.” Tannenhaus featured Yuval Levin, the youthful editor of the magazine National Affairs, as a major architect of the new movement. I got to know his views not only from his writings but also from a debate we had on “Civil Society and the Future of Conservatism” at the Hudson Institute, shortly after the 2012 election.
A critic of Mitt Romney’s focus on individual achievement and unbridled markets during the election, Levin is also a critic of what he sees as Democrats’ focus on government as the solution to social problems. Yuval emphasizes middle spaces in contrast to both. As he put it in “The Real Debate” in The Weekly Standard, the disagreement between conservatives and progressives is “about the nature of intermediate space and of the mediating institutions that occupy it: the family, civil society, and the private economy.”
In Levin’s view, as Tannenhaus describes, liberal government “is a ‘technocratic’ monolith, with a master class of experts who construct and administer large-scale programs that subordinate the needs and wishes of the public to the appetites of the policy makers.” Levin’s policy agenda is not simply anti-government. He “would recast the federal government as the facilitator and supporter of local institutions.” Like the older Mediating Structures Project of the American Enterprise Institute, he see local institutions as bulwarks of values of work, responsibility, loyalty, connection to place and love of country.
Missing from Levin’s view is any mention of civic power or the spirit of freedom.
In Free Spaces, Evans and I describe settings such as religious congregations, locally rooted unions and businesses, schools, fraternal and sisterly organizations, cultural groups, and other face-to-face settings. These, we argue, have been seedbeds of democratic movements in American history. The concept of free spaces shares with conservatives an emphasis on “intermediate space.” Like conservatives, we emphasize the ways middle spaces have been eroded by the rise of technocracy. But the concept puts the question of power and freedom back on center stage. It shares with progressives a focus on struggle against oppressive conditions. It lifts up the rich tradition of government as an empowering partner with the people — not as the center of the action — and it points toward a different kind of politics, beyond partisan polarization.
For intermediate spaces to become free spaces requires ownership by participants, space for self-organizing. Free spaces also entail public qualities of diversity of belief and background, cultivating capacities to work and form relationships across partisan and other differences. Public qualities include public imagination, an awareness of the possibilities of broad democratic changes in the society. Free spaces are not “cultures of resistance,” simply oppositional. Nor are they “safe spaces,” as the idea is commonly used in today’s therapeutic society.
Higher education plays crucial, if largely unnoticed, roles in the fate of free spaces. It socializes in professional identities, shaping students’ plans for careers and lives. If it graduates students who see themselves as experts outside a common civic life who fix people and provide solutions, higher education erodes free spaces. If it prepares civic leaders who help to create work sites which develop civic agency and public confidence, colleges and universities can be catalysts for innumerable free spaces, unleashing immense democratic change. In the forthcoming collection, Democracy’s Education (Vanderbilt University Press, 2015), the political philosopher Albert Dzur argues that the animating value for faculty members is freedom, the desire to control their work. This value is now under siege in many settings. It is in faculty members’ self-interests to link their own freedom to a broader project of freedom. Put differently, it can be said that the democratic movement in higher education is inextricably linked to the future of democracy itself. At the center of this connection is the existence and rebirth of free spaces.
Watch and Share Your Comments – Shaping Our Future, Launching a National Conversation about the Public Purposes of Higher EducationPosted: September 5, 2012
We hope you will watch the video and share your comments, questions, and feedback.
You can now watch the video (approximately 2 hrs.) recorded during the September 4, 2012 launch of Shaping Our Future: How Can Higher Education Help Us Create the Future We Want? – A national conversation about the public purposes of higher education. Through this initiative, students, faculty, administrators, employers, and members of the general public are invited to reflect on how colleges and universities might help the country tackle some of its most vexing problems. Shaping Our Future is organized by the American Commonwealth Partnership and the National Issues Forums.
The launch, which included a presentation and panel discussion, was held September 4, 2012, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, and featured the following speakers and panelists:
Martha Kanter, U.S. Undersecretary of Education
Nancy Cantor, Chancellor, Syracuse University
Muriel Howard, President, American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)
Bernie Ronan, Chair, The Democracy Commitment
Kaylesh Ramu, President, Student Government Association, University of Maryland Baltimore County
Scott Peters, Co-¬Director, Imagining America
Harry Boyte, National Coordinator, The American Commonwealth Partnership
Bill Muse, President, The National Issues Forums
David Mathews, President, The Kettering Foundation (via video)
The “Shaping Our Future” issue materials are available to download online (free through June 30, 2013).
The following is a preliminary listing of colleges and universities that have committed to holding “Shaping Our Future” forums:
Clark Atlanta University
Atlanta Metropolitan State College
Ft. Valley State University
San Diego State Univ. and Univ. of California at San Diego
Florida A&M University
University of Washington
Alabama A&M University
Lawson State Community College
Tennessee State University
Morgan State University
University of South Carolina, Sumter
Central Carolina Technical College
Albany State University
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Bemidji State University
Broome Community College
College of St. Benedict/St. John’s University
Concordia University-St. Paul
Franklin Pierce University
Georgia College and University
Gulf Coast State College
Gustavus Adolphus College
Inver Hills Community College
Minnesota State University-Mankato
Normandale Community College
North Hennepin Community College
Providence College and City of Providence
Portland Community College
St. Cloud State University
University of Georgia
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota-Duluth
University of Minnesota-Rochester
University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
University of Virginia
Virginia Tech University
Winona State University
Minnesota Campus Compact
Central Lakes College
University of Minnesaota-Morris
Northeastern Illinois University
Southwest Minnesota State University
University of St. Thomas
Washington State University Vancouver
For more information about participating in this national conversation contact Bill Muse, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 800-433-7834 or Harry Boyte, by e-mail at email@example.com, or by phone at 612-330-1453.